Sunday, April 6, 2014

5 Quick Tips For Landing Your DREAM JOB

It is hiring season for educators and educational leaders, specifically principals.  The process of finding a dream job can be extremely draining on ones physical and emotional well being.  Although this post will focus on principals, strategies mentioned can be easily transferred for use by any educator or professional. 

I recently went through a comprehensive interview process that included an application phase, interview with a large committee, site visit to my school, site visit to the school I applied for which included student, staff, parent & community forums and finally an interview with the superintendent.  At the completion of the process I was fortunate enough to be chosen as the new principal of Monomoy Regional High School and knew that this was my dream job!  This did not happen by accident.       

When school districts hire they do so with extreme focus, diligence and planning.  They are looking for a leader that will best fit their school system and lead them to excellence.  These positions are extremely competitive and hiring committees and superintendents are putting their collective trust in who they hire.  Leaders looking for principal jobs must be prepared and do whatever it takes to gain an advantage over other well trained and qualified applicants.  I will share 5 tips/strategies that have worked for me in my successful search for educational leadership positions.  This list is by no means exhaustive, please feel free to comment and add - our PLN will appreciate it.

1.  FIT: spend time extensively researching the position before you apply
  • Don't apply for A job, apply for the RIGHT job.  Principals spend a great deal of time at work, you should apply to a school district that is the best fit for you, somewhere you won't mind staying long hours and possibly many years. 
  • Research the superintendent and his/her vision and philosophies-are they in line with yours? 
  • Visit the town, its restaurants, coffee shops and town events and ask yourself "do I want to be part of this community?"  For each of my principal positions I spent weeks visiting the towns and speaking to local folks about their town and what they thought about the schools before I applied.
  • Everyone reads the school website- you need to do more if you want the edge: read all the local newspapers, subscribe to local town forums on RSS feeds, follow local groups on twitter and attend school committee meetings. 
  • Call a friend-reach out to anyone and everyone that works in the district and speak to them. What is great about the school, what do they need to improve, what are they looking for in a principal, etc. 
2. Create your Entry Plan: your vision, values, goals and beliefs as a leader on paper.
  • This document prepares you for this specific job and shows you have planned to raise this school to the next level.  Once you get the job of your dreams you have your road map!
  • Check out my recent blog post and example entry plan here Principal Entry Plan- The First 100 Days
3. APPLY: if you've done all your homework and this is the right FIT for you-apply!
  • Personal touch: most districts accept applications online- is a common source and one I recommend all educators sign up for.  But remember, you need to separate yourself from other applicants if you really want this job, everyone will be sending in applications online.  I always made it a point to visit the school and central office personally to drop off copies of my resume.  It shows you care and provides you an opportunity to show your face, so smile!
  • Connect with the boss: I often debated this technique, but believe if you don't overdo it and become a stalker, contacting the superintendent with a brief introduction of yourself is a good thing.  Again, others may email the superintendent -what separates you? I send a brief email introducing myself with a link to my blogs (Normandin Middle School Blog / Principal Burkhead's Blog) and my 100 day plan (#2 above).  I am banking that the superintendent will be curious and check out my information - BANG, instant advantage.  Now, before you even interview the office staff knows your smiling face and the superintendent knows your core beliefs on education as evidenced by your work. 
4. INTERVIEW:  you've made it past the paper screen, now what separates you?
  • Preparation:  all your hard work researching the school& town in step 1 (FIT) will allow you to share your personal knowledge to the committee.  I went to several "interview questions for principals" sites and studied the questions looking for trends.  Good example questions here- Example Principal Interview Questions.  I narrowed questions down to 50 and placed the questions on index cards (old school).  I went to the library and spent several hours/days there answering each question succinctly on the back of each index card based on my personal beliefs and the knowledge I gained from researching the school/district.  By interview time I was prepared!
  • Don't show up empty handed: some candidates show up with nothing, others with the typical resume and references (they already have this!)-what will you bring to your interview to separate you? I suggest bringing your 100 day plan with at least 15 copies.  Print your plan out and take it to staples and have them make it into a book.  The committee will appreciate the level of professionalism and the amazing presentation.  You may reference the plan during your interview, which will get them reading it.  Worst case scenario they leave reading your well-presented plan and recall you as being highly organized and proactive. 
  • Be yourself:  in the end, you want your dream job to be a real place, a place where you can be yourself.  I like to share some of my personal life and experiences through a quick story.  
  • Write personal thank you cards to everyone on the committee-this still works!
5.  Get to Work!
  • Congratulations you got your dream job!  Now, get to work & begin following your Entry Plan
  • If you do not get the job, it wasn't meant to be.  Start back to #1 above!  Don't let news of not getting the job bring you down. I believe two things: 1. things happen for a reason and 2. good things happen to good people.  Your dream job is still out there- find it!  
    Good luck to everyone-

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Supporting High Risk Students: The Massachusetts Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS)

Massachusetts educators now have the ability to easily access a wealth of information on individual students that will assist with early interventions and supports so that students are able to meet academic goals.  The Massachusetts Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) is intended to be used as a “starting point” for identifying and supporting students who may be at-risk, or in need of additional support.  The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) worked closely with the national research organization American Institutes for Research (AIR) in developing risk models.  The system identifies students as high, moderate, or low risk based on several contributing factors.  These factors include attendance, income level, gender, special education status, age, residency category, Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MAS) status, core academic course status, and other indicators.    

Before EWIS, data collection on individual students was laborious, time consuming, hard to assess and analyze.  Too often, well-intentioned educators possessing limited resources to identify the services necessary to best serve the students who need support most were given this task.   EWIS has modernized the way educator’s access meaningful information, acting as a “one-stop shop” that provides comparable data and a common language for Massachusetts schools. 

At Normandin Middle School EWIS is a powerful tool, proven extremely flexible, a compliment to our data collection at the school and classroom levels, providing clear, specific information for individual students.  At Normandin teachers review EWIS at-risk student metrics, in addition to their ongoing analysis of student grades, existing supports, common assessments, attendance, and annual MCAS results.  This enhanced understanding of our student’s needs has broadened our staff’s personal connections with students, connecting all members of our learning community by a common language, as well as, driving the imperative that no student fall through the cracks.

This year our focus is on identifying students who have not achieved proficiency on MCAS. Guidance counselors are meeting with students one on one, using EWIS data as a resource, while academic teachers and administrators also have access to EWIS data in the development of targeted instructional support for students.  It is our belief at Normandin Middle School that we need to do “whatever it takes” to ensure our students succeed.  Getting EWIS data in the hands of our professional educators is a means to that end.
To learn more about EWIS click HERE

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Receiving Principal Notifications via Text and/or Email

One of the most effective ways to promote student growth academically, behaviorally, and socially is through a partnership that bridges the school and home together.  I would like parents, students and community members to have the opportunity to receive text and/or email notifications from the Principal.  Such notifications may include school cancellations/delays, upcoming school events, report card distribution and positive news about our students and school. 

If you are interested please see below for sign up instructions.  You may discontinue notifications at any time.  We look forward to communicating with you!

To Receive Text Notifications:
  • Text (774) 999-0122 with the message @normandin
  • A text confirmation will be sent and allow you to add your name to the list
To Receive Email Notifications:

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

3 Simple Ways We Thanked Our Teachers Today

National Teacher Appreciation Day May 7, 2013

1. A letter to staff placed in every teacher's mailbox:

Dear Normandin Teachers,

This week is National Teacher Appreciation week (May 6-10, 2013) and an appropriate time for me to share how much I appreciate what you do. Recently our students participated in a survey about our school with a large majority reporting that they have teachers that are positive role models, who believe in them, and expect them to be successful. These student beliefs remind me of the quote "Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care" and there is clear evidence that you care!

Love, compassion, trust, empathy, discipline and accountability are the cornerstones of a healthy family and the foundation of the greatest schools. On a daily basis I witness our teachers taking the time to build relationships with our students, one child at a time. I would like to thank you for coming in early, staying late, buying materials with your own money, calling parents on your own time, paying for students' lunches, volunteering, correcting papers at home, making our students and other staff smile, offering a hug, loving what you do and being extremely good at it! I appreciate you all tremendously and value your hard work in the most difficult, yet fulfilling of all professions - teacher. I am proud and humbled to be your Principal.



2. A breakfast celebration for our teachers from the Admin Team!

3. A small token of our appreciation hand delivered to each teacher by our Admin team
Sticky note holder/calendar
Cover States: Normandin Middle School "A Place Where Great Things Happen" 2013

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Journey from GOOD to GREAT

"I never worry about action, but only inaction"
In Jim Collins’ bestselling book “Good to Great” he points out that the enemy of Great is Good. He explains that we don’t have great schools because we have good schools – society is content with good.  It has always been my dream to work at a school that acts as a "home away from home"...a Great school!  As a former head football coach our teams were never satisfied with being good.  We equated being good to being average.  Most sports teams strive to be the best, to be Great.  My mindset is no different when leading a school.  Are you ready to take action? 
How do you move from being a GOOD school to becoming a GREAT school?
Have a Shared Vision:
"Vision at our school will not be empty aspirations, but obligations, deadlines & concrete accomplishments!"
Richard DuFour
I shared this quote form Richard DuFour with our staff on the 1st day we met and let them know that this was our school (Normandin MS) and we would collectively develop the vision and direction that would establish a path to GREATNESS.  As educational leaders we must believe that our schools can, and should be, the model school for the state.  In order to move to the next level, each school must build upon its strengths and face challenges head-on.  This complex task cannot be accomplished by any one person; it requires strong commitments from students, staff, administration, parents and community members.  Success is dependent upon the ability to work as a team and plan, implement and execute our shared vision.
**I shared the following questions/document with our entire school community.  These conversations become the basis for our shared vision.** 

 I really enjoyed the video from Nike above.  Greatness can be scary, uncomfortable, extremely hard work and pressure packed.  My father used to say "if being the best was easy everyone would do it." That is certainly true about Greatness.  The next step on the Journey to Greatness is asking the smartest people in the room (your teachers) what Greatness is and looks like at your school.  Remember, it may look different at every school.  I gave all our teachers colored index cards and had them work in small groups to define Greatness.  The results became the values our school uses to guide all decisions. 

Live & Breathe Greatness:

 Once a clear collective vision is in place and Greatness has been defined at your school you need to walk the walk.  It's starts with the Principal.  The Principal needs to model it, promote it, hold people accountable for it, and acknowledge it when it happens at your school - Celebrate it!!!  I often say enthusiasm is free and contagious, but so is negativity.  The choice is yours, which will you chose today?  The goal is to build capacity at our school in the form of student and teacher leaders, then getting out of their way.  We want everyone at the top of the mountain! Have fun becoming Great! 
Greatness is: (Please feel free to add to the list in the comment section) 
We have just begun this journey and have a long way to go, but I am proud we are willing to take that 1st step-have you? Will you?


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Rigor Defined

I am an educator who has become overwhelmed with 21st Century Educational jargon, while being underwhelmed with the clarity and specificity to what many of the terms actually mean.  My newest pet peeve is the overuse of the word "Rigor."  I have heard the word  mentioned at least 1 million times in the past 5 years.  I have found that if you ask 5 different people what it means, you'll get 5 different answers.  I finally did what any educated Principal would do when uncertain about the definition of a word.... I googled it!  I got 34,300,000 hits (well that narrowed it down!).  The first link listed on google was a Merriam-Webster site's definition of rigor: (1)harsh inflexibility in opinion, temper, or judgment : severity. (2): the quality of being unyielding or inflexible : strictness. Do we want our curriculum, classrooms and teachers to be "inflexible, severe or strict?"  I didn't think so.  I will give google credit, however, as I came across an excellent article on rigor via @ASCD and written by Tony Wagner titled Rigor Redefined


So then I did what any educated Principal who wants the BEST answer to a question would do - I asked a teacher!  In fact, I asked our entire staff to define Rigor and what it looks like at our school.  The document below is our living draft, that will continuously be refined and improved as our collegial and professional discourse continues.  It is a baseline for our discussions on good teaching and best practice and will guide us on our journey to greatness.    
Normandin Middle School
-Academic Rigor-

Rigor is multifaceted, challenging instruction that encourages each student to reach his/her academic, intellectual potential.

Common characteristics of a rigorous classroom @Normandin:
      • Student work is posted
      • Folders/portfolios/notebooks evident
      • Continuous momentum
      • Active, relevant discussions
      • Multiple tiered lessons
      • Student ownership of learning
      • Independent learning encouraged through gradual release of responsibility
    • Students are engaged and on task in meaningful, learning activities
    • Curiosity promoted by a safe learning environment
    • Honoring varied learning styles through differentiated instruction
    • Constantly pushing towards higher level thinking through continuous effective questioning which requires thought, reflection and critical thinking skills—Bloom’s Taxonomy
    • Continuous, productive feedback provided by teacher
    • Sense of enthusiasm and curiosity for learning
    • Student collaboration
    • Relevant vocabulary used in instruction and classroom discussion
    • How skills and information can be applied to daily life, i.e. technology, science, history, math and literacy
    • Classroom rules, procedures and routines are established
    • Clearly stated lesson goals and objectives
    • Clear academic and behavioral expectations are defined and reviewed by teachers on a regular basis

How are you defining Rigor at your school?  Please share!


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Leader Visits Normandin

Ireland's Sinn Fein leading member Pat Doherty visited Normandin Middle School on Friday March 15, 2013.  He spoke to our eighth-graders from Pod 8-1 about the struggle for Northern Ireland's independence.  Mr. Doherty took the time to answer ALL student questions and spent 1 on 1 time with students for more in-depth discussion after the event.  The visit reflected a truly authentic way to bring our social studies curriculum to life, while learing first hand about another countries struggles for independence.  We are very proud of our students and their ability to ask rigorous questions and participate in intelligent conversations with our guests. 

We would like to thank the following guests for taking the time to visit Normandin and particpate in this very special event:
  • Mrs. Doherty
  • School Committee members Dr. Fletcher & Dr. Finnerty
  • Director of Mathematics Dr. Bonneau 
  • Director of Federal & State Funded Programs Mr. Andrew O'Leary

    A special thank you to Mr. Donnelly for organizing the event, along with Pod 8-1 teachers Ms. Sanders, Mr. Rosen, Ms. Freitas and Ms. St. Amand! Ms. Hinkley and students did an awesome job setting up the library to model a true "town hall" venue. Thank you to Ms. Aubertine for providing a wonderful spread of food and home baked goodies for our guests.  Our custodial team's efforts were unmatched in preparing for our guests-nice job.

    Read more about the visit in the column by Mr. Steve Urbon here: South Coast today